Looking at the Past, Present and Future With EOTech

A tour of the EOTech factory and chance to test products at the shooting range reveal more about this high-tech, growing company as it looks to the future.

Looking at the  Past, Present and Future With EOTech

I recently joined a group of industry writers for a tour and range day at the EOTech factory in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While there, we learned the basics of holography-based weapon sight technology, saw the assembly floor first hand and then got to put some Holographic Weapon Sights (HWS) to use on a nearby range.

EOTech Beginnings

Before we got into the basics of what makes HWS special, we learned from Ann Hanson, EOTech chief marketing officer, what sets EOTech and L3 Technologies apart. Founded in 1997, L3 employs approximately 31,000 people within three main divisions, Electronic Systems, Communications and Networked Systems, and the division that includes EOTech, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). L3, one of the world’s largest defense contractors, acquired EOTech in 2005. L3 prides itself on the fact that one in six ISR employees is a veteran.

The history of EOTech’s involvement with HWS can be traced back to a non-profit research institute known as the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM) established in 1972 by the Michigan Legislature. In 1993, ERIM formed the Michigan Development Corporation (MDC) to commercialize ERIM technology and create for-profit subsidiaries. Two years later, EOTech was born, and brought forth its first-generation HWS at the 1996 SHOT Show, under the trade name Bushnell-HoloSight, which won the Optic of the Year award from the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence. They won the Optic of the Year award again in 2001 with the introduction of their military and law enforcement HWS.

EOTech has adopted a “Stop and raise your hand” mentality on the assembly line, ensuring that every team member is a quality control ambassador. Recently, EOTech has been working to be more open and transparent about fixing issues with thermal drift. As part of the factory tour, we stepped inside the quality control room and saw some of the testing in action. More on that later, but suffice it to say I was impressed with the thoroughness of the testing and the company’s ability to track individual units all the way through the assembly line.

HWS Technology Basics

EOTech is well known for their HWS, but not everyone understands the difference between HWS and red dot sights. We sat down with Mark Miller, Product Manager and Aaron Hampton, Technical Advisor, to learn more about the technology and what sets it apart.

HWS offer a number of benefits over other optics options, which is part of why EOTech continues to secure contracts with the U.S. Military. Some of those advantages include fast target acquisition, both-eyes-open engagement and off-axis capabilities. One distinct advantage is the durability inherent with the holographic reticle technology. The holographic reticle continues to function and maintain zero even when the sight window is broken or obscured.

A basic red dot sight, also known as a reflex sight, reflects an LED light source off a lens with a reflective surface back towards the shooter. When used in conjunction with a magnifier, this reticle is also magnified, possibly obscuring the target. These red dot reticles are also limited to relatively small and simple patterns.

The EOTech HWS utilizes a more powerful laser diode and a series of folding mirrors and reflectors to create a holographic reticle. The popular “Speed Ring” reticle combines a 68 MOA ring with a 1 MOA dot that can be used for on-the-fly ranging of the target. The 68 MOA circle will be filled top to bottom with a 5-foot 9-inch target at 100 yards. At 200 yards, that same target will fill half the reticle, and so on. This holographic reticle isn’t enlarged by magnifiers, so that 1 MOA center dot will remain 1 MOA, unlike red dot reticles. We learned those center dots are actually smaller than 1 MOA, they measure only 10 microns, but the human eye is incapable of discerning the size as any smaller than 1 MOA.

Factory Tour

Like the employees assembling the various components on the factory floor, we were required to suit up with smocks, eye protection and gloves. This is all done in effort to reduce contaminants that could potentially become trapped inside the optics. Employees that are stationed at any given post along the assembly line have a cord clipped to their smocks to prevent the buildup of static electricity.

Products are carefully assembled, cleaned and tested before being shipped.

The part of the assembly floor where individual pieces were epoxied together is climate controlled to ensure proper curing of the adhesive. Both temperature and humidity are monitored, and if either falls outside of the acceptable range, production is shut down until it is remedied. The magnifiers assembled here were in a smaller, sealed room because of the added precautions necessary when creating a sealed space between the front and rear glass. Because this room utilizes an exterior wall, climate controls are more difficult, though EOTech has plans to move this portion of the process to an interior room.

Final assembly takes place on one of four U-shaped lines. Two of those lines are reserved for assembling the military HWS, even though the final product is identical to the civilian models. The major difference between the military HWS and the civilian HWS is the level of scrutiny applied during the quality assurance process. For the civilian models, EOTech tests a sample group of each batch, while the military models are tested individually. Along the final assembly line, all HWS are subjected to 40 cycles through a recoil simulator, while the batches face more recoil testing along with thermal drift and thermal shock analysis. Any time an individual sight fails, the rest of the lot is tested individually. At any point in the assembly, employees are encouraged to say something if any aspect of the assembly process falls out of line with expected results. This gives everyone a role in quality control.

In the quality control lab, the sights are subjected to more rigorous recoil testing, submersion and thermal extremes. Realistically, all optics experience some sort of thermal drift, but EOTech has ramped up its testing of this currently unavoidable phenomenon, ensuring that the HWS that leave the factory floor headed for retailers or the military are built to perform as well in normal conditions as in the harshest conditions the user might encounter.

Behind the Glass

After wrapping up the factory tour, we headed to the range to check out the HWS and Vudu scopes in action. We had a variety of guns and plenty of ammo to shoot to keep us entertained. This was my first chance to sit behind a HWS on a bench and bang some steel. Color me impressed.

One gun I shot was a 6.5 Creedmoor — The Fix by Q — topped with one of EOTech’s newest offerings, a Vudu 5-25x50 compact first focal plane scope paired with an L3 Light Weight Thermal Sight (LWTS). The compact length of the Vudu left plenty of room on the rail to attach the LWTS. The glass was crystal clear and LWTS in white hot mode made the frozen gel pack on the target pop, even if we couldn’t actually shoot the gel pack.

Something that really grabbed my attention was how great the HWS green reticle looked and how easily it was to see against different backdrops. According to EOTech, the green reticle is approximately six times easier to see than a red reticle in daytime. It sure seemed like they were telling the truth. The combination of being able to keep both eyes open and the green reticle made it easy to find targets and keep on them for follow-up shots.

Final Thoughts

At the time this article was written, EOTech had just been awarded a $26.3 million contract with the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to provide close-quarters sights and clip-on magnifiers. This contract is something the folks at EOTech are quite proud of, and rightly so. This partnership, and continued strides in quality control measures, should ease remaining concerns customers might have about the reliability of the products leaving the EOTech facility in Ann Arbor.

As another testament to a continued commitment to producing industry-leading optics, EOTech was awarded the NRA Golden Bullseye Optic of the Year award for its Vudu 1-6x24mm scope in 2018. This variable scope bridges the gap between close- and mid-range capabilities. At 1x magnification, the popular Speed Ring will be displayed, but the first focal plane scope will transition to a BDC-style reticle with the outer ring of the Speed Ring disappearing altogether.

This tour of the EOTech facility and afternoon at the range was an illuminating experience. When friends and family, unfamiliar with what EOTech does, asked about the trip before I left, I simply told them they make red dot sights. Boy was I wrong. When I got back, and those same people asked how it went, I was able to give a much better explanation of the advantages a holography-based sights holds over a standard red dot.

EOTech seems to have learned from past issues they encountered, and by placing even more emphasis on quality control than ever before, they’re poised to regain their well-deserved share of the market.


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